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The unit of measure for fatbergs is not hippopotami, even if the operater of an Australian sewer says so

An Australian drainage company has made a valiant effort to define a new standard for weights; in this specific case they’re measuring sewer fatbergs in hippopotami.

Australia’s Broadcasting Corporation reported that Urban Utilities of Queensland was recently complaining about rubbish blocking its sewers. Fair enough; the utility firm reckoned it was costing them around AU$1m a year to clear the fatbergs.

“We attend to about 4,000 blockages in the sewage network per year, costing us an additional maintenance cost of about $1 million per annum,” the company’s lead for Environmental Solutions Colin Hester told the ABC. “There’s no nationally agreed standard between makers, retailers and utilities,” he added, seemingly referring to products that really shouldn’t be flushed down the bog but which retailers label as “flushable” anyway.

Except… except, dear Colin, except. Further down the ABC article was this sentence:

According to Urban Utilities, every year 120 tonnes of wipes, the equivalent in weight of 34 hippopotami, is removed from the network.

A little light arithmetic tells us each hippo Urban Utilities refers to weighs about 3½ tonnes (3,200kg) – we’ll return to that figure. As Register readers know, hippopotami are not an approved measure of weight.

Referring to the only official standard for non-standard weights and measures, as established by The Register‘s Standards Soviet in times immemorial, we learn that the approved measures of weight are the adult badger; the Great White Shark; the Skateboarding Rhinoceri (plural); Australian trams, and for those really outrageously large sums, units of the Las Vegas LINQ Hotel’s annual quantity of recycling.

None of these measures correspond to hippos. The skateboarding rhino is the nearest thing we’ve got here… but about that.

How much does a hippo actually weigh? Estimates, like recollections of key historical events, vary. National Geographic pegs it at between 1.5 and 4 tons (US imperial*), and the upper end of that scale comes out at about 4.08 Great White Sharks which is in the same ballpark as United Utilities’ figure. The world’s most famous US-owned reference publication, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, pegs it at exactly 2.13 skateboarding rhinoceri which is also a perfect match for Urban Utilities’ figures.

Bravo to them – but nul points for the choice of unit. ®

* roughly equivalent to 1.3-3.6 tonnes


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